VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — R-Pizza has been a Vermillion institution for nearly 60 years. Though there have been a handful of owners over those decades, some things, such as the name and the branding, have remained the same.

R-Pizza in downtown Vermillion

Sad news arrived for many on August 3, 2023, when the current owners of R-Pizza announced via Facebook that the business will close on Sunday, August 6.

The comments on this post show the impact the business had on the community of Vermillion and those in it, with people of many generations lamenting the loss.

“This place was the best!!” reads one comment. “This was a staple when I was in college,” reads another. “Thanks for all the good memories.” They go on and on.

Brandon King, owner of R-Pizza, told KELOLAND News that the closure was a financial decision. King said some parties have reached out about buying the business, but added he does not own the building.

There is indeed desire by many to see the business continue on.

KELOLAND News spoke with Amberly Baus and Josh Scherrer, co-owners of Cee Cee’s 605 Scratch Kitchen and Bar, as well as Monica Iverson and James Waters, co-owners of Cafe Brule, Dakota Brickhouse and Cakes by Monica, all Vermillion businesses.

Baus and Scherrer have been involved in the Vermillion restaurant industry for around a decade. Iverson and Waters have been involved since the 1980s.

Throughout all that time, R-Pizza was also there. “The first day I moved here I was told I’ve got to go down there,” Scherrer recalled. “I actually didn’t even know anything about downtown until I was brought to R-Pizza — I lived in the dorms at Julian Hall for two weeks before I even knew there was a Vermillion downtown — it’s kinda been a staple since I moved here.”

Baus also remembers her first experience with R-Pizza. “Before I moved to Vermillion, my mom and I were visiting and she said, ‘We have to go to R-Pizza. They have the best pizza in town,'” she remembered her mom telling her. “She was here for college and that’s all she talked about was their pizza — it was really good!”

Quality has been nearly synonymous with R-Pizza over the years.

“I think if you have something good, no matter what other restaurants pop up — Pizza Hut, Godfathers, Dominoes — R-Pizza was here first and they stayed because they had something good,” Iverson said. “If you have something good, it really doesn’t matter how many other restaurants pop up that are competition. If you have something good, people are gonna come.”

Something Iverson held up as an example of what R-Pizza has done well over the years is its sauce. “You had to get the right sauce,” she emphasized. “You have the right sauce, you have the right pizza and people keep coming back for that flavor.”

The sauce indeed had an impact.

Kelly Gilkyson, who co-owned R-Pizza with her husband Kim back in the late 70s and 80s told KELOLAND News via text that the original owner, Jeff Radigan, passed the sauce recipe down to them when they bought the business. The current owners haven’t had that original recipe, Gilkyson noted, but the food still excelled.

“Hoagie and tots,” reminisced Waters. “Hoagie and tots used to be one of my late night sandwiches.”

Late nights were a staple for R-Pizza, at least until the pandemic hit, with a crowd gathered out on the sidewalk around bar-close, waiting for tots, a slice of pizza or especially cheeseballs to be passed through a slot in the door.

Just another R-Pizza tradition which will live on in the (albeit hazy) memories of many which have burnished the establishment’s reputation.

What exactly is that reputation? “Good product; good customer service; delivery’s wonderful,” said Iverson.

R-Pizza is our pizza.

Jim Waters

Iverson also noted the impact the eatery has had on the community. “The students coming and going over the years — we’ve seen the comments on Facebook about students that have come and gone,” she said. “I think it’s become a little bit of a tradition for the University as well.”

“R-Pizza is our pizza,” quipped Waters.

The closure of R-Pizza is a loss for the Vermillion community that Scherrer elaborated on.

“You’re losing a good local business that has been passed down for generations,” Scherrer said. “It’s maintained it’s name — the name itself if the name of another owner in town (R as in Radigan). It definitely represents a lot of what this community offers.”

Waters also talked about what the current owners, Brandon and Ally, brought to the community.

“They’re both really giving people and they’re involved in a lot of things to help the community,” Waters said. “They’ve always been about helping out other people.”

Each of the owners we spoke to agreed that the diversity of dining in Vermillion is a community strength, and they are sad to see R-Pizza go.

“We’ve seen a lot of places come and go in Vermillion,” Baus said. “It’s been good for the community that we’ve had places pop up, but we’ve seen the hit when places shut down as well.”

The closing of R-Pizza is a hit for the community, but as things move forward, the attitude of the people we spoke to was summed up by this statement from Scherrer.

“Most of all I hope that Brandon and Ally are able to find the thing that’s next for them.”

R-Pizza in Vermillion

As for what’s next for R-Pizza, we do not know. It”ll be open August 4th, 5th and 6th from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m., serving the community one final time.